cover image Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind

Jonathan Abernathy You Are Kind

Molly McGhee. Astra House, $26 (296p) ISBN 978-1-66260-211-5

In McGee’s darkly comic fantastical debut, an everyman hero attempts to crawl out of debt with a job as a Dream Auditor, which requires him to enter and alter other people’s dreams. Jonathan Abernathy, obliviously handsome, downtrodden, and inept, finds employment with the mysterious Archival Office, a government contractor that provides a productivity enhancement service to employers. Jonathan spends his REM sleep cycle entering peoples’ dreams, where he identifies and scrubs traumatic memories and other stress triggers—any “inner turmoil” that might surface in the workplace. In exchange, Abernathy receives a meager nightly payment and a fraction of loan forgiveness. Despite a growing sense of unease, he convinces himself that he’s doing respectable, important work—even performing a kindness. That is, until the Archival Office’s preoccupation with success sends him sliding back into existential dread. Things become even more complicated after he begins auditing the dreams of his neighbor and love interest, Rhoda. McGhee anchors the zany narrative with biting depictions of financial instability. Fans of Ling Ma’s Severance will soak this up. Agent: Angeline Rodriguez, WME. (Oct.)